Photos: Land Rover. Click image to enlarge
by Richard Russell
The Land Rover Freelander stands alone atop the compact SUV segment, price and ability-wise. Competition includes everything from the Toyota RAV4 and Honda CRV, which dominate the class, to newcomers like the Hyundai Tucson. But Land Rover offers a combination of heritage and off-road ability that the other players can’t match, with the possible exception of the Jeep Liberty.
The Freelander, introduced in 2002 in the $40,000 range, didn’t fare very well against such competitors. Even if it did carry one of the most respected names in the world, the $10,000 price premium over similarly equipped competitors was too much to overcome, especially with shoppers who weren’t afraid to compare and were not impressed by the added image and implied ability of the Land Rover name.
Land Rover tackled that issue last year, dropping the base model and making a whack of equipment standard on the remaining trim lines. The effect was to cut the gap by about $3,500, bringing the Freelander within consideration of some more shoppers. But make no mistake, you still pay a hefty premium.
The Freelander is available in two and four door models. A new premium package is available for 2005. While they share dimensions, the two-door SE3 is referred to as a semi-convertible because it boasts a trio of removable roof panels, one glass unit over each front seat and a metal panel over the rear seat area. When they are removed, there is a lot of sky above!
My two-door tester, like all Freelanders, had a swing-out cargo door and a slick power rear window that goes up and down. But the SE3 also gets an audio upgrade to a 240-watt, nine-speaker Harmon Kardon setup with six-disc in-dash changer, and larger 17-inch alloy wheels with secondary controls on the steering wheel. The price-tag on my tester started out at $37,900 to which was added $1,500 for leather interior, $400 for park distance control and $795 for 18-inch alloy wheel bringing the total to $40,695 (plus Freight and taxes), definitely premium pricing in this category.
From the familiar Range Rover-look headlights, to the spare tire carrier, the Freelander stands apart visually, especially in relation to the competition in this segment. The overall impression is most definitely that of a Land Rover family resemblance. The interior received a thorough makeover for 2004 with new seats, door panels, instrument panel and centre pod. The seats are comfortable and covered in top quality material. The majority of switches and controls are within easy reach but some require a stretch or taking your eyes off the road. The rear seat is surprisingly roomy, but at the expense of cargo space when the rear seat is up.
My one gripe with the Freelander lays with the lack of performance. There is nothing wrong with the engine. It is a modern dual overhead cam 2.5 litre V6 with all the most recent technology. But its 174 horsepower and more importantly 177 lb. ft. of torque have a tough time coping with the weight of this vehicle. The engine is smooth and quiet, but has to be pushed hard to get acceptable performance on long grades and in passing situations. Flatlanders will find it more acceptable than those who have to cope with hills.
Where the Freelander does excel is in refinement, as the six is smoother than the fours of the competition which produce roughly the same power, but have 300 – 600 fewer pounds to move around. Thankfully, the standard transmission is a five-speed automatic and the added ratio helps keep the engine on the boil.
Click image to enlarge
Around town the ride is smooth and supple and the suspension soaks up even nasty surface acne with aplomb. The Freelander is equally at home on the open road and when the pavement turns twisty it can hold its own with many a sedan, quite an accomplishment for something this tall and heavy.
If you need to venture off-road, there is nothing in the class, save the Liberty and perhaps the Suzuki Grand Vitara, that can stay in the game. Land Rover practically has the patent on off-road engineering and it shows here. The Freelander does not have a two-speed transfer case like the Liberty and Suzuki, but boasts some pretty clever engineering and electronics that allows it to crawl over serious stubble with ease.
Click image to enlarge
The full-time all-wheel-drive system normally sends 95% of available power to the front wheels. A viscous centre differential allows that to be varied according to need – nothing too different there. But where the Freelander stands out is with its elaborate, electronic four-wheel traction control system which, combined with hill descent control, allows it to get seriously off-road – and back. The traction control prevents any wheel from spinning, which covers climbing situations and the hill descent control limits speeds when descending a steep grade to a maximum of 8 km/hr in first or reverse.
The Freelander was the first Land Rover to use unibody construction and they got it right. The added weight shows here as this vehicle is solid as a rock and feels as though it can take anything thrown at it. Land Rovers have an international reputation for lasting decades and there is no reason to believe this one will be any different.
The Ford subsidiary has positioned the Freelander as a premium compact SUV, one for people who want to stand apart from the pack and make a statement with their vehicle. It will also appeal to those who occasionally need to venture further off-road than the norm. Exclusivity is a given.
Technical Data: 2005 Land Rover Freelander SE3
|Options||$2,695 ($1,500 leather interior, $400 park distance ontrol, $795 18-inch alloys)|
|Price as tested||$41,690|
|Type||2-door, 5 passenger compact SUV|
|Layout||longitudinal front engine/all-wheel-drive|
|Engine||2.5 litre V6, DOHC, 24 valves|
|Horsepower||174 @ 6250 rpm|
|Torque||177 @ 4000 rpm|
|Transmission||5-speed automatic with manual shift mode|
|Max. payload||382 kg (842 lb.)|
|Max. towing capacity||750 kg (1650 lb.) trailer without brakes|
|1133 kg (2500 lb.) trailer with brakes|
|Ground clearance||186 mm (7.3 in.) minimum|
|Angle of approach||30.5 degrees|
|Angle of departure||33.9 degrees|
|Curb weight||1678 kg (3699 lb.)|
|Wheelbase||2557 mm (101.0 in.)|
|Length||4459 mm (175.5 in.)|
|Width||1809 mm (71.2 in.) mirrors folded|
|Height||1808 mm (71.2 in.)|
|Cargo capacity||470 litres (16.7 cu. ft.) rear seat up|
|1190 litres (42.2 cu. ft.) rear seat down|
|Fuel consumption||City: 13.8 L/100 km (21 m.p.g.)|
|Hwy: 10.8 L/100 km (26 m.p.g.)|
|Fuel type||Regular unleaded gasoline|
|Warranty||4 yrs/80,000 km|